Education and Training Varies—see profile
Salary Median—$15.60 per hour
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Automotive mechanics inspect, service, and repair the engines, brakes, and other parts of cars, buses, and trucks. They also perform routine maintenance to prevent future breakdowns.
Diagnosing problems quickly and accurately requires analytical ability. It also requires a thorough knowledge of cars' mechanical and electronic systems and competence with a variety of electronic tools, such as infrared engine analyzers and computers. Many mechanics consider diagnosing hard-to-find problems to be one of their most challenging and satisfying duties.
After locating the source of the malfunctions, mechanics often need to replace or repair faulty parts. Some mechanics specialize in particular kinds of repair, such as electrical or transmission problems. They usually work in special service shops.
Most mechanics work in automobile dealerships, automobile repair shops, and gasoline service stations. Many others are employed by federal, state, and local government agencies; taxicab and automobile leasing companies; and other businesses that repair their own cars and trucks. Automobile manufacturers hire mechanics to make adjustments and repairs after cars come off the assembly line. Other mechanics work for large department stores that have facilities for servicing automobiles.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer to hire applicants who are high school graduates. High school courses in metal work, mechanical drawing, science, mathematics, computer skills, and automobile maintenance are helpful. A number of advanced high school programs are part of the Automotive Youth Education Service, a certification program that prepares students for entry-level jobs. Participants often train under experienced mechanics for up to four years.
A growing number of employers require auto mechanics to complete training programs offered by trade, vocational, or community colleges. The programs
last from six months to two years and combine classroom instruction and hands-on practical experience. Some trade schools partner with automotive dealerships, which allow students to work in their service departments.
Certification is important—but not mandatory—in this field. Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification, the nationally recognized standard, can be awarded in eight different areas of automotive service. Applicants must pass exams and have two years of relevant experience to become ASE-certified mechanics. To be recognized as master automobile technicians, mechanics must be certified in all eight areas of automotive service. Mechanics are retested every five years to renew certification. More than four hundred thousand service professionals have achieved ASE certification.
Getting the Job
School placement offices, job fairs, and apprenticeship programs can provide employment contacts and job leads. Job seekers can also apply directly to service stations, automotive dealerships, and repair shops. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job sites often list openings.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced mechanics in large shops may advance to supervisory positions, such as repair shop supervisor or service manager. Mechanics who like to work with customers may become service estimators, who take clients' orders for repairs and write up job orders for mechanics. Many mechanics open their own repair shops or service stations.
Employment of automobile mechanics is expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Turnover in this field is high, so many openings occur each year. Automotive technology is becoming increasingly complex, so mechanics who have had formal training may find the most opportunities. Demand should also be high for those who stay informed about new developments in this field, such as alternate fuels technology.
Most mechanics work between forty and forty-eight hours per week, but many work longer hours during busy periods. Mechanics frequently get paid at higher rates for overtime.
Most mechanics work indoors, in shops with good ventilation, lighting, and heat. They frequently work with dirty, greasy parts and in awkward positions. Sometimes they must lift heavy objects. Minor cuts and bruises are common, but serious accidents are usually avoided by observing established safety procedures.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary, depending on location and mechanics' experience. In 2004 the median wage of all automotive mechanics was $15.60 per hour. The most experienced mechanics earned more than $26.33 per hour. Apprentices started at about sixty percent of the standard wage and received increases throughout their training.
Where to Go for More Information
Automotive Service Association
PO Box 929
Bedford, TX 76095-0929
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
9000 Machinists Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
101 Blue Seal Dr. SE, Ste. 101
Leesburg, VA 20175
Benefits often include paid holidays and vacations. Mechanics may also get life, health, and accident insurance. Some employers supply uniforms.